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Letter to the Secretary of State for the United States of America - 10 September 2004

The Honourable Colin Powell, Secretary of State, US Department of State, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Powell:

The world listened with urgent interest to your statement at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 9 September 2004 in which you concluded for the first time that 'genocide has been committed in Darfur' as a result of the killings, rapes and destruction of homes in the region of western Sudan that have forced 1.5 million people to date from their homes.

We understand that you based your conclusion to define the conflict in Darfur as 'genocide' on a State Department report by officials who interviewed 1,136 Darfurian refugees in Chad over a five-week period. The said report revealed a 'consistent and widespread pattern of atrocities committed against non-Arab villagers.'

You equally acknowledged the international dimension of this conflict when you underlined the responsibilities that arise from such a definition under the Geneva Conventions on the prevention of genocide.

Like so many other international non-governmental, charitable and church-related organisations, we applaud this departure in US official policy. We believe that State Parties to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide are now under an obligation to 'undertake to prevent and punish' genocide and that this definition would also allow them to invoke Article 8 of the Convention whereby any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the UN Charter.

However, Mr Secretary of State, allow us also to transpose the very facts of the terrible conflict in Darfur with what happened to the Armenian Turkish citizens in Ottoman Turkey during World War I.

Just as in Sudan against the Darfurians today, there was also an 'intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group' by Ottoman Turkey against its own Armenian citizens [Art 2, UN Convention of 1948].

Numerous legal scholars, as well as historians, church missionaries and writers, have acknowledged that the same fate - and much more - befell Armenians in 1915. In fact, the murders, rapes, destructions, displacement and rampages that have been occurring in Darfur in recent months also occurred against Armenians in Ottoman Turkey until 1923.

Furthermore, many politicians and parliamentarians across the world have recognised this tragedy as genocide. After all, no less an authority than Henry Morgenthau, US Ambassador to Ottoman Turkey between 1913 and 1916, substantiated the mass murder of over one million Armenians, and his first-hand witness account of the events that engulfed Armenians at the time is one of many indictments against the Ottoman leaders.

Yet, despite many attempts to have successive US Administrations pronounce the 'G word', Armenians have so long been stonewalled with uncompromising silence by the leading democracies of the world - namely the USA and the UK. Darfurians today, Tutsis 10 years ago, and Armenians 89 years ago: these are three tragic examples amongst many others, and we simply wonder why the yardsticks and criteria can shift so radically or easily when the facts themselves do not.

Surely, honesty, ethics and a belief in a general good still prevail as guiding lodestars of the US Administration?

Sincerely yours
Raffi Sarkissian - Chair

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